A couple of weeks ago I was in Toronto with my friends Christopher Vogler and a fellow you may have heard of, Don Maass. We were there teaching the Story Masters conference, a four-day immersion in the craft of fiction.
For this conference, each of us takes a full day to teach our stuff, and then get together for a final day taking the students through a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the classic Harper Lee novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.
I began my session by showing a clip from the amusing Albert Brooks film, The Muse. It’s the story of a middle-aged screenwriter facing a career crisis (which, in Hollywood, is almost redundant). Early on, Brooks is having lunch with a studio honcho who is about fifteen years his junior. Brooks has submitted an action script and wants feedback.
The honcho says, “Let me put this in a form that’s not insulting, because I tend to be too direct. All my friends tell me that. The script’s no good.”
Brooks says, “That’s the form that’s not insulting? What would the insulting form be?”
When Brooks asks what’s wrong with the script, the honcho replies, “What’s wrong with the script … is you.”
Brooks presses for more specifics. The honcho finally says, “You’ve lost your edge.”
Brooks looks at him with that Albert Brooks existential-angst expression he has practically trademarked. The honcho further states that the studio needs Brooks to vacate his office so Brian De Palma can have it. “You can’t give Brian De Palma my office!” Brooks says.
“It’s not really your office,” the honcho replies. “We’re all just using space here. I’m where Lucille Ball used to be.”
“Too bad you’re not where she is now.”
In short, the lunch does not go well.
After the clip, I told the class part of the reason they were at Story Masters was to avoid ever being subjected to a conversation like that. How? [Read more…]